Your Title Doesn’t Make You A Leader. Your Example Does

A few weeks ago I was asked to examine the leaders, people who are responsible for a specific area and had direct reports, of a company. I noticed one person in particular who talked badly about their direct reports behind the scenes.

His take went something like this: “They suck. They aren’t doing what they’re told! Everyday I have to put up with this.”

And when this person was chewed up by his manager, he basically laid the blame on his employees. This resulted in backlash from his reports. Instead of coaching people, he put them down. Nobody held him in high respect, and no one wanted to be around him.

What else can I say, his behavior was inconsistent with that of a leader. And this is a microcosm of what happens in all areas of this organization. Those who are witness to this behavior and believe it to be wrong are afraid to speak up because of fear of retaliation. It’s the leadership, stupid. When your people don’t grown, your company doesn’t grow. So if you aren’t growing, guess what?

This is a leaderless organization. One that shows exactly what leadership is not. It pays lip service to the word leader. And don’t get me started with culture!

Here are three key principles of leadership you have to understand to be a true leader:

  1. You can’t lead anybody if you can’t lead yourself. You won’t grow when you’re incapable or looking in the mirror and questioning your attitude and methods. Much less help others grow.
  2. Just because you have a fancy title doesn’t make you a leader. Many people aim to reach a position because it means more money in their pocket but also because that position comes with perceived respect. Let me put it to you this way: yes, your title gives you some power. But people don’t follow titles, they follow courage.
  3. You’re not a leader if you’re demanding but don’t walk the talk. Lead by example, not by mandates.

I’ll end with this message from Simon Sinek:

There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead us inspire us. Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.